NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — January is known as birth defects prevention month. 

Birth defects are changes to the body that happen due to an abnormal development of a body part or organ system present at birth.

Birth defects can affect any part of the body. 

“I think it’s very important, because certain birth defects can be prevented, and there are a number of minor things that women can do to actually help significantly reduce the risk,” said Sanford Health Specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Dr. Angela Stephens.

Dr. Stephens says raising awareness can improve the health of people living with these conditions.

Advancements in medicine and surgery have led to better survival rates, and according to the CDC, more children born with birth defects grow up to lead full lives.

And, learning and preparing ahead of time through testing and ultrasounds can save you and your baby.

“It’s recommended that you be put on a prenatal vitamin. Whether or not you’re trying to conceive, because sometimes pregnancies are unplanned, but those prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, and at least 400 µg of folic acid is recommended for every woman of reproductive age. This can significantly reduce certain birth defects, especially in the brain and spine,” said Dr. Stephens. 

Dr. Stephens says as a mother, it’s important not to put yourself down, because you can’t control a lot of birth defects.

“It’s important to note that not all birth defects can be prevented, and so, I just want to say that for women who have had a pregnancy impacted by a birth defect, I do not want to imply by any means that things are their fault. There are certain birth defects that can be prevented and some that are not,” says Dr. Stephens. 

She says factors, like alcohol and drugs, can cause birth defects along with poor hygiene and infections.

Local hospitals have resources and tools to track, care and simply answer all questions for parents.

“I always encourage my patients and let them know that they’re not alone. One of the big things is that a lot of the individuals feel like they’re isolated when they have the diagnosis,” said Dr. Stephens.

The CDC reports that birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. 

That translates into about 120,000 babies.

Sunday night on KX News at 10, we will share one local mom story.

To learn more about Birth Defect prevention month visit .